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WHAT IS PTSD

PTSD arises from exposure to a traumatic event, where typically the brain transitions the body from 'survival mode' to a restoration state afterward. However, in PTSD, this transition fails to occur, leaving the survivor in a prolonged state of emergency. It can manifest after any traumatic experience, contributing to its prevalence among psychologically abused women, with 7 out of 10 developing PTSD. Veterans returning from war often experience PTSD at comparable levels of severity to victims of domestic abuse. Historically, service dogs have primarily aided veterans with PTSD, limiting options for others in need. This is where we step in.

The Brain is Separated Into 3 Parts

(simplified)

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Neomammalian: The front brain, controls cognitive processing, decisions-making, learning, memory and inhibitory functions.

Mammalian: The midlevel brain, processes emotions and conveys sensory relays

Reptilian: The innermost part of the brain responsible for survival and autonomic body processes

PTSD happens here

"Normal" Functioning

When your brain functions without trauma, it goes in a "top down" direction of processing. You're thinking regularly and taking in information. When you're thinking this way things feel neutral, and aren't particularly emotionally charged or frightening.

When something traumatic happens our brains switch into "survival mode", meaning that the reactive parts of your

brain take over. Your body therefore prepares you for fight or flight, and you have little control over what you do because the less cognizant parts of your brain take over. 

Trauma Functioning

Typically when our fight or flight is triggered our brains go from reactive to responsive and things continue as usual. With PTSD, the shift from reactive to responsive never occurs. Instead the reptilian brain holds the survivor in a reactive state.

PTSD SYMPTOMS

RE-EXPERIENCING

  • Flashbacks

  • Nightmares

NEGATIVE CHANGES IN BELIEFS OR FEELINGS
  • Loss of loving feelings

  • Forgetting parts about the traumatic events or not being able to talk about them

  • Feeling the whole world is dangerous and no one is trustworthy

AVOIDANCE
  • Inability to sleep or relax

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Easily startled

HYPER-AROUSAL

HOW WE HELP

PTSD is reinforced by what's called a "trauma feedback loop," which means that when there's trigger (something to cause a flashback or a panic attack related to the trauma), we relive the trauma, and we tend to avoid the thing that caused the trigger. For example, if something traumatic happened in a coffee shop, the sound of a coffee grinder might be a trigger. Then it might escalate, become the smell of coffee, and so on, so forth. Before we know it we're avoiding everything to do with coffee, but the symptoms of PTSD still exist. The more this cycle continues, the more PTSD is enforced near the base of the brain.

 

In order for PTSD to be recovered from, the traumatic memories need to be processed by the higher parts of the brain, and that can't be done while the cycle is constantly repeating itself. For PTSD to be recovered from, the cycle must be interrupted.

WE INTERRUPT HERE

TRIGGER

FEAR/PANIC

POOR MEMORY CONSOLIDATION

AVOIDANCE

Yes, dogs are cute and awesome. But our service dogs are so much more than that to survivors.  We train each dog for one survivor, tailored to that survivor's triggers and nightmares, and train the dog to interrupt them. Each time the cycle of trauma is interrupted, PTSD becomes that much less enforced. We also teach the survivors ways to aid themselves in their own healing process. The dog and the survivor work together in our program, leading to better memory consolidation on behalf of the survivor and therefore taking a practical and scientific approach to recovering from PTSD.

MORE INFO

We are a nonprofit and work entirely off of donations so that we don't have to charge survivors for the help they need. There's lots of ways you can help, even if you can't make a donation.

If you're a survivor and interested in being a part of our program, we'd love to hear from you! You're the reason we exist, and we're happy to answer any questions before you apply.

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